A fire that broke out last week at Iran’s Natanz nuclear site has caused significant damage that could slow the development of advanced centrifuges, an Iranian nuclear official said on Sunday.
No one was injured in Thursday’s mysterious fire at the site, said Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization.
The main Iranian security organ said on Friday the cause of the fire in the establishment had been determined and would be announced later, but specific details have not yet been released.
Some Iranian officials have reportedly said it could have been caused by cyber sabotage, and one of them warned Tehran to respond to any country that committed such attacks.
“The incident could slow the development and production of advanced centrifuges in the medium term”, Kamalvandi was quoted like saying by The Iranian press agency IRNA.
“Iran will replace the damaged building with a larger one with more advanced equipment. The incident caused significant damage, but there were no casualties. ”
Last week, an IRNA article addressed what he called the possibility of sabotage by enemies such as Israel and the United States, although he did not directly accuse either ‘other.
In 2010, the Stuxnet computer virus, widely believed to have been developed by the United States and Israel, was discovered after being used to attack Natanz.
The Israeli Defense Minister said on Sunday that he was not “necessarily” behind every mysterious incident in Iran.
The Natanz uranium enrichment site, much of which is underground, is one of many Iranian facilities monitored by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the nuclear watchdog United Nations.
The IAEA said on Friday that the fire site did not contain nuclear material and that none of its inspectors were present at the time.
Natanz is the centerpiece of Iran’s enrichment program, which Tehran says is for peaceful purposes only. Western intelligence agencies and the IAEA believe they have a coordinated and clandestine nuclear weapons program that it stopped in 2003.
Tehran denies having ever sought nuclear weapons.
Iran has agreed to limit its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of most international sanctions in an agreement reached between Tehran and six world powers in 2015.
But Tehran has gradually reduced its commitments to the deal since the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018 and reimposed and intensified the sanctions that have affected the Iranian economy.
The agreement only allows Iran to enrich uranium at the Natanz facility with more than 5,000 first-generation IR-1 centrifuges.